The attempt on the life of Náṣiri’d-Dín Sháh, as stated in a previous chapter, was made on the 28th of the month of Shavvál, 1268 A.H., corresponding to the 15th of August, 1852. Immediately after, Bahá’u’lláh was arrested in Níyávarán, was conducted with the greatest ignominy to Ṭihrán and cast into the Síyáh-Chál. His imprisonment lasted for a period of no less than four months, in the middle of which the “year nine” (1269), anticipated in such glowing terms by the Báb, and alluded to as the year “after Ḥín” by Shaykh Aḥmad-i-Aḥsá’í, was ushered in, endowing with undreamt-of potentialities the whole world. Two months after that year was born, Bahá’u’lláh, the purpose of His imprisonment now accomplished, was released from His confinement, and set out, a month later, for Baghdád, on the first stage of a memorable and life-long exile which was to carry Him, in the course of years, as far as Adrianople in European Turkey, and which was to end with His twenty-four years’ incarceration in ‘Akká.
Now that He had been invested, in consequence of that potent dream, with the power and sovereign authority associated with His Divine mission, His deliverance from a confinement that had achieved its purpose, and which if prolonged would have completely fettered Him in the exercise of His newly-bestowed functions, became not only inevitable, but imperative and urgent. Nor were the means and instruments lacking whereby his emancipation from the shackles that restrained Him could be effected. The persistent and decisive intervention of the Russian Minister, Prince Dolgorouki, who left no stone unturned to establish the innocence of Bahá’u’lláh; the public confession of Mullá Shaykh ‘Alíy-i-Turshízí, surnamed ‘Aẓím, who, in the Síyáh-Chál, in the presence of the Ḥájibu’d-Dawlih and the Russian Minister’s interpreter and of the government’s representative, emphatically exonerated Him, and acknowledged his own complicity; the indisputable testimony established by competent tribunals; the unrelaxing efforts exerted by His own brothers, sisters and kindred,—all these combined to effect His ultimate deliverance from the hands of His rapacious enemies. Another potent if less evident influence which must be acknowledged as having had a share in His liberation was the fate suffered by so large a number of His self-sacrificing fellow-disciples who languished with Him in that same prison. For, as Nabíl truly remarks, “the blood, shed in the course of that fateful year in Ṭihrán by that heroic band with whom Bahá’u’lláh had been imprisoned, was the ransom paid for His deliverance from the hand of a foe that sought to prevent Him from achieving the purpose for which God had destined Him.”
With such overwhelming testimonies establishing beyond the shadow of a doubt the non-complicity of Bahá’u’lláh, the Grand Vizir, after having secured the reluctant consent of his sovereign to set free his Captive, was now in a position to dispatch his trusted representative, Ḥájí ‘Alí, to the Síyáh-Chál, instructing him to deliver to Bahá’u’lláh the order for His release. The sight which that emissary beheld upon his arrival evoked in him such anger that he cursed his master for the shameful treatment of a man of such high position and stainless renown. Removing his mantle from his shoulders he presented it to Bahá’u’lláh, entreating Him to wear it when in the presence of the Minister and his counsellors, a request which He emphatically refused, preferring to appear, attired in the garb of a prisoner, before the members of the Imperial government.
No sooner had He presented Himself before them than the Grand Vizir addressed Him saying: “Had you chosen to take my advice, and had you dissociated yourself from the Faith of the Siyyid-i-Báb, you would never have suffered the pains and indignities that have been heaped upon you.” “Had you, in your turn,” Bahá’u’lláh retorted, “followed My counsels, the affairs of the government would not have reached so critical a stage.” Mírzá Áqá Khán was thereupon reminded of the conversation he had had with Him on the occasion of the Báb’s martyrdom, when he had been warned that “the flame that has been kindled will blaze forth more fiercely than ever.” “What is it that you advise me now to do?” he inquired from Bahá’u’lláh. “Command the governors of the realm,” was the instant reply, “to cease shedding the blood of the innocent, to cease plundering their property, to cease dishonoring their women, and injuring their children.” That same day the Grand Vizir acted on the advice thus given him; but any effect it had, as the course of subsequent events amply demonstrated, proved to be momentary and negligible.
The relative peace and tranquillity accorded Bahá’u’lláh after His tragic and cruel imprisonment was destined, by the dictates of an unerring Wisdom, to be of an extremely short duration. He had hardly rejoined His family and kindred when a decree from Náṣiri’d-Dín Sháh was communicated to Him, bidding Him leave the territory of Persia, fixing a time-limit of one month for His departure and allowing Him the right to choose the land of His exile.
The Russian Minister, as soon as he was informed of the Imperial decision, expressed the desire to take Bahá’u’lláh under the protection of his government, and offered to extend every facility for His removal to Russia. This invitation, so spontaneously extended, Bahá’u’lláh declined, preferring, in pursuance of an unerring instinct, to establish His abode in Turkish territory, in the city of Baghdád. “Whilst I lay chained and fettered in the prison,” He Himself, years after, testified in His Epistle addressed to the Czar of Russia, Nicolaevitch Alexander II, “one of thy ministers extended Me his aid. Whereupon God hath ordained for thee a station which the knowledge of none can comprehend except His knowledge. Beware lest thou barter away this sublime station.” “In the days,” is yet another illuminating testimony revealed by His pen, “when this Wronged One was sore-afflicted in prison, the minister of the highly esteemed government (of Russia)—may God, glorified and exalted be He, assist him!—exerted his utmost endeavor to compass My deliverance. Several times permission for My release was granted. Some of the ‘ulamás of the city, however, would prevent it. Finally, My freedom was gained through the solicitude and the endeavor of His Excellency the Minister.… His Imperial Majesty, the Most Great Emperor—may God, exalted and glorified be He, assist him!—extended to Me for the sake of God his protection—a protection which has excited the envy and enmity of the foolish ones of the earth.”
The Sháh’s edict, equivalent to an order for the immediate expulsion of Bahá’u’lláh from Persian territory, opens a new and glorious chapter in the history of the first Bahá’í century. Viewed in its proper perspective it will be even recognized to have ushered in one of the most eventful and momentous epochs in the world’s religious history. It coincides with the inauguration of a ministry extending over a period of almost forty years—a ministry which, by virtue of its creative power, its cleansing force, its healing influences, and the irresistible operation of the world-directing, world-shaping forces it released, stands unparalleled in the religious annals of the entire human race. It marks the opening phase in a series of banishments, ranging over a period of four decades, and terminating only with the death of Him Who was the Object of that cruel edict. The process which it set in motion, gradually progressing and unfolding, began by establishing His Cause for a time in the very midst of the jealously-guarded stronghold of Shí‘ah Islám, and brought Him in personal contact with its highest and most illustrious exponents; then, at a later stage, it confronted Him, at the seat of the Caliphate, with the civil and ecclesiastical dignitaries of the realm and the representatives of the Sulṭán of Turkey, the most powerful potentate in the Islamic world; and finally carried Him as far as the shores of the Holy Land, thereby fulfilling the prophecies recorded in both the Old and the New Testaments, redeeming the pledge enshrined in various traditions attributed to the Apostle of God and the Imáms who succeeded Him, and ushering in the long-awaited restoration of Israel to the ancient cradle of its Faith. With it, may be said to have begun the last and most fruitful of the four stages of a life, the first twenty-seven years of which were characterized by the care-free enjoyment of all the advantages conferred by high birth and riches, and by an unfailing solicitude for the interests of the poor, the sick and the down-trodden; followed by nine years of active and exemplary discipleship in the service of the Báb; and finally by an imprisonment of four months’ duration, overshadowed throughout by mortal peril, embittered by agonizing sorrows, and immortalized, as it drew to a close, by the sudden eruption of the forces released by an overpowering, soul-revolutionizing Revelation.
This enforced and hurried departure of Bahá’u’lláh from His native land, accompanied by some of His relatives, recalls in some of its aspects, the precipitate flight of the Holy Family into Egypt; the sudden migration of Muḥammad, soon after His assumption of the prophetic office, from Mecca to Medina; the exodus of Moses, His brother and His followers from the land of their birth, in response to the Divine summons, and above all the banishment of Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees to the Promised Land—a banishment which, in the multitudinous benefits it conferred upon so many divers peoples, faiths and nations, constitutes the nearest historical approach to the incalculable blessings destined to be vouchsafed, in this day, and in future ages, to the whole human race, in direct consequence of the exile suffered by Him Whose Cause is the flower and fruit of all previous Revelations.
‘Abdu’l‑Bahá, after enumerating in His “Some Answered Questions” the far-reaching consequences of Abraham’s banishment, significantly affirms that “since the exile of Abraham from Ur to Aleppo in Syria produced this result, we must consider what will be the effect of the exile of Bahá’u’lláh in His several removes from Ṭihrán to Baghdád, from thence to Constantinople, to Rumelia and to the Holy Land.”
On the first day of the month of Rabí‘u’th-Thání, of the year 1269 A.H., (January 12, 1853), nine months after His return from Karbilá, Bahá’u’lláh, together with some of the members of His family, and escorted by an officer of the Imperial body-guard and an official representing the Russian Legation, set out on His three months’ journey to Baghdád. Among those who shared His exile was His wife, the saintly Navváb, entitled by Him the “Most Exalted Leaf,” who, during almost forty years, continued to evince a fortitude, a piety, a devotion and a nobility of soul which earned her from the pen of her Lord the posthumous and unrivalled tribute of having been made His “perpetual consort in all the worlds of God.” His nine-year-old son, later surnamed the “Most Great Branch,” destined to become the Center of His Covenant and authorized Interpreter of His teachings, together with His seven-year-old sister, known in later years by the same title as that of her illustrious mother, and whose services until the ripe old age of four score years and six, no less than her exalted parentage, entitle her to the distinction of ranking as the outstanding heroine of the Bahá’í Dispensation, were also included among the exiles who were now bidding their last farewell to their native country. Of the two brothers who accompanied Him on that journey the first was Mírzá Músá, commonly called Áqáy-i-Kalím, His staunch and valued supporter, the ablest and most distinguished among His brothers and sisters, and one of the “only two persons who,” according to Bahá’u’lláh’s testimony, “were adequately informed of the origins” of His Faith. The other was Mírzá Muḥammad-Qulí, a half-brother, who, in spite of the defection of some of his relatives, remained to the end loyal to the Cause he had espoused.
The journey, undertaken in the depth of an exceptionally severe winter, carrying the little band of exiles, so inadequately equipped, across the snow-bound mountains of Western Persia, though long and perilous, was uneventful except for the warm and enthusiastic reception accorded the travelers during their brief stay in Karand by its governor Hayát-Qulí Khán, of the ‘Alíyu’lláhí sect. He was shown, in return, such kindness by Bahá’u’lláh that the people of the entire village were affected, and continued, long after, to extend such hospitality to His followers on their way to Baghdád that they gained the reputation of being known as Bábís.
In a prayer revealed by Him at that time, Bahá’u’lláh, expatiating upon the woes and trials He had endured in the Síyáh-Chál, thus bears witness to the hardships undergone in the course of that “terrible journey”: “My God, My Master, My Desire!… Thou hast created this atom of dust through the consummate power of Thy might, and nurtured Him with Thine hands which none can chain up.… Thou hast destined for Him trials and tribulations which no tongue can describe, nor any of Thy Tablets adequately recount. The throat Thou didst accustom to the touch of silk Thou hast, in the end, clasped with strong chains, and the body Thou didst ease with brocades and velvets Thou hast at last subjected to the abasement of a dungeon. Thy decree hath shackled Me with unnumbered fetters, and cast about My neck chains that none can sunder. A number of years have passed during which afflictions have, like showers of mercy, rained upon Me.… How many the nights during which the weight of chains and fetters allowed Me no rest, and how numerous the days during which peace and tranquillity were denied Me, by reason of that wherewith the hands and tongues of men have afflicted Me! Both bread and water which Thou hast, through Thy all-embracing mercy, allowed unto the beasts of the field, they have, for a time, forbidden unto this servant, and the things they refused to inflict upon such as have seceded from Thy Cause, the same have they suffered to be inflicted upon Me, until, finally, Thy decree was irrevocably fixed, and Thy behest summoned this servant to depart out of Persia, accompanied by a number of frail-bodied men and children of tender age, at this time when the cold is so intense that one cannot even speak, and ice and snow so abundant that it is impossible to move.”
Finally, on the 28th of Jamádíyu’th-Thání 1269 A.H. (April 8, 1853), Bahá’u’lláh arrived in Baghdád, the capital city of what was then the Turkish province of ‘Iráq. From there He proceeded, a few days after, to Káẓimayn, about three miles north of the city, a town inhabited chiefly by Persians, and where the two Káẓims, the seventh and the ninth Imáms, are buried. Soon after His arrival the representative of the Sháh’s government, stationed in Baghdád, called on Him, and suggested that it would be advisable for Him, in view of the many visitors crowding that center of pilgrimage, to establish His residence in Old Baghdád, a suggestion with which He readily concurred. A month later, towards the end of Rajab, He rented the house of Ḥájí ‘Alí Madad, in an old quarter of the city, into which He moved with His family.
In that city, described in Islamic traditions as “Ẓahru’l-Kúfih,” designated for centuries as the “Abode of Peace,” and immortalized by Bahá’u’lláh as the “City of God,” He, except for His two year retirement to the mountains of Kurdistán and His occasional visits to Najaf, Karbilá and Káẓimayn, continued to reside until His banishment to Constantinople. To that city the Qur’án had alluded as the “Abode of Peace” to which God Himself “calleth.” To it, in that same Book, further allusion had been made in the verse “For them is a Dwelling of Peace with their Lord … on the Day whereon God shall gather them all together.” From it radiated, wave after wave, a power, a radiance and a glory which insensibly reanimated a languishing Faith, sorely-stricken, sinking into obscurity, threatened with oblivion. From it were diffused, day and night, and with ever-increasing energy, the first emanations of a Revelation which, in its scope, its copiousness, its driving force and the volume and variety of its literature, was destined to excel that of the Báb Himself. Above its horizon burst forth the rays of the Sun of Truth, Whose rising glory had for ten long years been overshadowed by the inky clouds of a consuming hatred, an ineradicable jealousy, an unrelenting malice. In it the Tabernacle of the promised “Lord of Hosts” was first erected, and the foundations of the long-awaited Kingdom of the “Father” unassailably established. Out of it went forth the earliest tidings of the Message of Salvation which, as prophesied by Daniel, was to mark, after the lapse of “a thousand two hundred and ninety days” (1280 A.H.), the end of “the abomination that maketh desolate.” Within its walls the “Most Great House of God,” His “Footstool” and the “Throne of His Glory,” “the Cynosure of an adoring world,” the “Lamp of Salvation between earth and heaven,” the “Sign of His remembrance to all who are in heaven and on earth,” enshrining the “Jewel whose glory hath irradiated all creation,” the “Standard” of His Kingdom, the “Shrine round which will circle the concourse of the faithful” was irrevocably founded and permanently consecrated. Upon it, by virtue of its sanctity as Bahá’u’lláh’s “Most Holy Habitation” and “Seat of His transcendent glory,” was conferred the honor of being regarded as a center of pilgrimage second to none except the city of ‘Akká, His “Most Great Prison,” in whose immediate vicinity His holy Sepulcher, the Qiblih of the Bahá’í world, is enshrined. Around the heavenly Table, spread in its very heart, clergy and laity, Sunnís and Shí‘ahs, Kurds, Arabs, and Persians, princes and nobles, peasants and dervishes, gathered in increasing numbers from far and near, all partaking, according to their needs and capacities, of a measure of that Divine sustenance which was to enable them, in the course of time, to noise abroad the fame of that bountiful Giver, swell the ranks of His admirers, scatter far and wide His writings, enlarge the limits of His congregation, and lay a firm foundation for the future erection of the institutions of His Faith. And finally, before the gaze of the diversified communities that dwelt within its gates, the first phase in the gradual unfoldment of a newborn Revelation was ushered in, the first effusions from the inspired pen of its Author were recorded, the first principles of His slowly crystallizing doctrine were formulated, the first implications of His august station were apprehended, the first attacks aiming at the disruption of His Faith from within were launched, the first victories over its internal enemies were registered, and the first pilgrimages to the Door of His Presence were undertaken.
This life-long exile to which the Bearer of so precious a Message was now providentially condemned did not, and indeed could not, manifest, either suddenly or rapidly, the potentialities latent within it. The process whereby its unsuspected benefits were to be manifested to the eyes of men was slow, painfully slow, and was characterized, as indeed the history of His Faith from its inception to the present day demonstrates, by a number of crises which at times threatened to arrest its unfoldment and blast all the hopes which its progress had engendered.
One such crisis which, as it deepened, threatened to jeopardize His newborn Faith and to subvert its earliest foundations, overshadowed the first years of His sojourn in ‘Iráq, the initial stage in His life-long exile, and imparted to them a special significance. Unlike those which preceded it, this crisis was purely internal in character, and was occasioned solely by the acts, the ambitions and follies of those who were numbered among His recognized fellow-disciples.
The external enemies of the Faith, whether civil or ecclesiastical, who had thus far been chiefly responsible for the reverses and humiliations it had suffered, were by now relatively quiescent. The public appetite for revenge, which had seemed insatiable, had now, to some extent, in consequence of the torrents of blood that had flowed, abated. A feeling, bordering on exhaustion and despair, had, moreover, settled on some of its most inveterate enemies, who were astute enough to perceive that though the Faith had bent beneath the grievous blows their hands had dealt it, its structure had remained essentially unimpaired and its spirit unbroken. The orders issued to the governors of the provinces by the Grand Vizir had had, furthermore, a sobering effect on the local authorities, who were now dissuaded from venting their fury upon, and from indulging in their sadistic cruelties against, a hated adversary.
A lull had, in consequence, momentarily ensued, which was destined to be broken, at a later stage, by a further wave of repressive measures in which the Sulṭán of Turkey and his ministers, as well as the Sunní sacerdotal order, were to join hands with the Sháh and the Shí‘ah clericals of Persia and ‘Iráq in an endeavor to stamp out, once and for all, the Faith and all it stood for. While this lull persisted the initial manifestations of the internal crisis, already mentioned, were beginning to reveal themselves—a crisis which, though less spectacular in the public eye, proved itself, as it moved to its climax, to be one of unprecedented gravity, reducing the numerical strength of the infant community, imperiling its unity, causing immense damage to its prestige, and tarnishing for a considerable period of time its glory.
This crisis had already been brewing in the days immediately following the execution of the Báb, was intensified during the months when the controlling hand of Bahá’u’lláh was suddenly withdrawn as a result of His confinement in the Síyáh-Chál of Ṭihrán, was further aggravated by His precipitate banishment from Persia, and began to protrude its disturbing features during the first years of His sojourn in Baghdád. Its devastating force gathered momentum during His two year retirement to the mountains of Kurdistán, and though it was checked, for a time, after His return from Sulaymáníyyih, under the overmastering influences exerted preparatory to the Declaration of His Mission, it broke out later, with still greater violence, and reached its climax in Adrianople, only to receive finally its death-blow under the impact of the irresistible forces released through the proclamation of that Mission to all mankind.
Its central figure was no less a person than the nominee of the Báb Himself, the credulous and cowardly Mírzá Yaḥyá, to certain traits of whose character reference has already been made in the foregoing pages. The black-hearted scoundrel who befooled and manipulated this vain and flaccid man with consummate skill and unyielding persistence was a certain Siyyid Muḥammad, a native of Iṣfahán, notorious for his inordinate ambition, his blind obstinacy and uncontrollable jealousy. To him Bahá’u’lláh had later referred in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas as the one who had “led astray” Mírzá Yaḥyá, and stigmatized him, in one of His Tablets, as the “source of envy and the quintessence of mischief,” while ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá had described the relationship existing between these two as that of “the sucking child” to the “much-prized breast” of its mother. Forced to abandon his studies in the madrisiy-i-Ṣadr of Iṣfahán, this Siyyid had migrated, in shame and remorse, to Karbilá, had there joined the ranks of the Báb’s followers, and shown, after His martyrdom, signs of vacillation which exposed the shallowness of his faith and the fundamental weakness of his convictions. Bahá’u’lláh’s first visit to Karbilá and the marks of undisguised reverence, love and admiration shown Him by some of the most distinguished among the former disciples and companions of Siyyid Káẓim, had aroused in this calculating and unscrupulous schemer an envy, and bred in his soul an animosity, which the forbearance and patience shown him by Bahá’u’lláh had served only to inflame. His deluded helpers, willing tools of his diabolical designs, were the not inconsiderable number of Bábís who, baffled, disillusioned and leaderless, were already predisposed to be beguiled by him into pursuing a path diametrically opposed to the tenets and counsels of a departed Leader.
For, with the Báb no longer in the midst of His followers; with His nominee, either seeking a safe hiding place in the mountains of Mázindarán, or wearing the disguise of a dervish or of an Arab wandering from town to town; with Bahá’u’lláh imprisoned and subsequently banished beyond the limits of His native country; with the flower of the Faith mown down in a seemingly unending series of slaughters, the remnants of that persecuted community were sunk in a distress that appalled and paralyzed them, that stifled their spirit, confused their minds and strained to the utmost their loyalty. Reduced to this extremity they could no longer rely on any voice that commanded sufficient authority to still their forebodings, resolve their problems, or prescribe to them their duties and obligations.
Nabíl, traveling at that time through the province of Khurásán, the scene of the tumultuous early victories of a rising Faith, had himself summed up his impressions of the prevailing condition. “The fire of the Cause of God,” he testifies in his narrative, “had been well-nigh quenched in every place. I could detect no trace of warmth anywhere.” In Qazvín, according to the same testimony, the remnant of the community had split into four factions, bitterly opposed to one another, and a prey to the most absurd doctrines and fancies. Bahá’u’lláh upon His arrival in Baghdád, a city which had witnessed the glowing evidences of the indefatigable zeal of Ṭáhirih, found among His countrymen residing in that city no more than a single Bábí, while in Káẓimayn inhabited chiefly by Persians, a mere handful of His compatriots remained who still professed, in fear and obscurity, their faith in the Báb.
The morals of the members of this dwindling community, no less than their numbers, had sharply declined. Such was their “waywardness and folly,” to quote Bahá’u’lláh’s own words, that upon His release from prison, His first decision was “to arise … and undertake, with the utmost vigor, the task of regenerating this people.”
As the character of the professed adherents of the Báb declined and as proofs of the deepening confusion that afflicted them multiplied, the mischief-makers, who were lying in wait, and whose sole aim was to exploit the progressive deterioration in the situation for their own benefit, grew ever more and more audacious. The conduct of Mírzá Yaḥyá, who claimed to be the successor of the Báb, and who prided himself on his high sounding titles of Mir’átu’l-Azalíyyih (Everlasting Mirror), of Ṣubḥ-i-Azal (Morning of Eternity), and of Ismu’l-Azal (Name of Eternity), and particularly the machinations of Siyyid Muḥammad, exalted by him to the rank of the first among the “Witnesses” of the Bayán, were by now assuming such a character that the prestige of the Faith was becoming directly involved, and its future security seriously imperiled.
The former had, after the execution of the Báb, sustained such a violent shock that his faith almost forsook him. Wandering for a time, in the guise of a dervish, in the mountains of Mázindarán, he, by his behavior, had so severely tested the loyalty of his fellow-believers in Núr, most of whom had been converted through the indefatigable zeal of Bahá’u’lláh, that they too wavered in their convictions, some of them going so far as to throw in their lot with the enemy. He subsequently proceeded to Rasht, and remained concealed in the province of Gílán until his departure for Kirmánsháh, where in order the better to screen himself he entered the service of a certain ‘Abdu’lláh-i-Qazvíní, a maker of shrouds, and became a vendor of his goods. He was still there when Bahá’u’lláh passed through that city on His way to Baghdád, and expressing a desire to live in close proximity to Bahá’u’lláh but in a house by himself where he could ply some trade incognito, he succeeded in obtaining from Him a sum of money with which he purchased several bales of cotton and then proceeded, in the garb of an Arab, by way of Mandalíj to Baghdád. He established himself there in the street of the Charcoal Dealers, situated in a dilapidated quarter of the city, and placing a turban upon his head, and assuming the name of Ḥájí ‘Alíy-i-Lás-Furúsh, embarked on his newly-chosen occupation. Siyyid Muḥammad had meanwhile settled in Karbilá, and was busily engaged, with Mírzá Yaḥyá as his lever, in kindling dissensions and in deranging the life of the exiles and of the community that had gathered about them.
Little wonder that from the pen of Bahá’u’lláh, Who was as yet unable to divulge the Secret that stirred within His bosom, these words of warning, of counsel and of assurance should, at a time when the shadows were beginning to deepen around Him, have proceeded: “The days of tests are now come. Oceans of dissension and tribulation are surging, and the Banners of Doubt are, in every nook and corner, occupied in stirring up mischief and in leading men to perdition.… Suffer not the voice of some of the soldiers of negation to cast doubt into your midst, neither allow yourselves to become heedless of Him Who is the Truth, inasmuch as in every Dispensation such contentions have been raised. God, however, will establish His Faith, and manifest His light albeit the stirrers of sedition abhor it.… Watch ye every day for the Cause of God.… All are held captive in His grasp. No place is there for any one to flee to. Think not the Cause of God to be a thing lightly taken, in which any one can gratify his whims. In various quarters a number of souls have, at the present time, advanced this same claim. The time is approaching when … every one of them will have perished and been lost, nay will have come to naught and become a thing unremembered, even as the dust itself.”
To Mírzá Áqá Ján, “the first to believe” in Him, designated later as Khádimu’lláh (Servant of God)—a Bábí youth, aflame with devotion, who, under the influence of a dream he had of the Báb, and as a result of the perusal of certain writings of Bahá’u’lláh, had precipitately forsaken his home in Káshán and traveled to ‘Iráq, in the hope of attaining His presence, and who from then on served Him assiduously for a period of forty years in his triple function of amanuensis, companion and attendant—to him Bahá’u’lláh, more than to any one else, was moved to disclose, at this critical juncture, a glimpse of the as yet unrevealed glory of His station. This same Mírzá Áqá Ján, recounting to Nabíl his experiences, on that first and never to be forgotten night spent in Karbilá, in the presence of his newly-found Beloved, Who was then a guest of Ḥájí Mírzá Ḥasan-i-Ḥakím-Báshí, had given the following testimony: “As it was summer-time Bahá’u’lláh was in the habit of passing His evenings and of sleeping on the roof of the House.… That night, when He had gone to sleep, I, according to His directions, lay down for a brief rest, at a distance of a few feet from Him. No sooner had I risen, and … started to offer my prayers, in a corner of the roof which adjoined a wall, than I beheld His blessed Person rise and walk towards me. When He reached me He said: ‘You, too, are awake.’ Whereupon He began to chant and pace back and forth. How shall I ever describe that voice and the verses it intoned, and His gait, as He strode before me! Methinks, with every step He took and every word He uttered thousands of oceans of light surged before my face, and thousands of worlds of incomparable splendor were unveiled to my eyes, and thousands of suns blazed their light upon me! In the moonlight that streamed upon Him, He thus continued to walk and to chant. Every time He approached me He would pause, and, in a tone so wondrous that no tongue can describe it, would say: ‘Hear Me, My son. By God, the True One! This Cause will assuredly be made manifest. Heed thou not the idle talk of the people of the Bayán, who pervert the meaning of every word.’ In this manner He continued to walk and chant, and to address me these words until the first streaks of dawn appeared.… Afterwards I removed His bedding to His room, and, having prepared His tea for Him, was dismissed from His presence.”
The confidence instilled in Mírzá Áqá Ján by this unexpected and sudden contact with the spirit and directing genius of a new-born Revelation stirred his soul to its depths—a soul already afire with a consuming love born of his recognition of the ascendancy which his newly-found Master had already achieved over His fellow-disciples in both ‘Iráq and Persia. This intense adoration that informed his whole being, and which could neither be suppressed nor concealed, was instantly detected by both Mírzá Yaḥyá and his fellow-conspirator Siyyid Muḥammad. The circumstances leading to the revelation of the Tablet of Kullu’ṭ-Ṭa‘ám, written during that period, at the request of Ḥájí Mírzá Kamálu’d-Dín-i-Naráqí, a Bábí of honorable rank and high culture, could not but aggravate a situation that had already become serious and menacing. Impelled by a desire to receive illumination from Mírzá Yaḥyá concerning the meaning of the Qur’ánic verse “All food was allowed to the children of Israel,” Ḥájí Mírzá Kamálu’d-Dín had requested him to write a commentary upon it—a request which was granted, but with reluctance and in a manner which showed such incompetence and superficiality as to disillusion Ḥájí Mírzá Kamálu’d-Dín, and to destroy his confidence in its author. Turning to Bahá’u’lláh and repeating his request, he was honored by a Tablet, in which Israel and his children were identified with the Báb and His followers respectively—a Tablet which by reason of the allusions it contained, the beauty of its language and the cogency of its argument, so enraptured the soul of its recipient that he would have, but for the restraining hand of Bahá’u’lláh, proclaimed forthwith his discovery of God’s hidden Secret in the person of the One Who had revealed it.
To these evidences of an ever deepening veneration for Bahá’u’lláh and of a passionate attachment to His person were now being added further grounds for the outbreak of the pent-up jealousies which His mounting prestige evoked in the breasts of His ill-wishers and enemies. The steady extension of the circle of His acquaintances and admirers; His friendly intercourse with officials including the governor of the city; the unfeigned homage offered Him, on so many occasions and so spontaneously, by men who had once been distinguished companions of Siyyid Káẓim; the disillusionment which the persistent concealment of Mírzá Yaḥyá, and the unflattering reports circulated regarding his character and abilities, had engendered; the signs of increasing independence, of innate sagacity and inherent superiority and capacity for leadership unmistakably exhibited by Bahá’u’lláh Himself—all combined to widen the breach which the infamous and crafty Siyyid Muḥammad had sedulously contrived to create.
A clandestine opposition, whose aim was to nullify every effort exerted, and frustrate every design conceived, by Bahá’u’lláh for the rehabilitation of a distracted community, could now be clearly discerned. Insinuations, whose purpose was to sow the seeds of doubt and suspicion and to represent Him as a usurper, as the subverter of the laws instituted by the Báb, and the wrecker of His Cause, were being incessantly circulated. His Epistles, interpretations, invocations and commentaries were being covertly and indirectly criticized, challenged and misrepresented. An attempt to injure His person was even set afoot but failed to materialize.
The cup of Bahá’u’lláh’s sorrows was now running over. All His exhortations, all His efforts to remedy a rapidly deteriorating situation, had remained fruitless. The velocity of His manifold woes was hourly and visibly increasing. Upon the sadness that filled His soul and the gravity of the situation confronting Him, His writings, revealed during that somber period, throw abundant light. In some of His prayers He poignantly confesses that “tribulation upon tribulation” had gathered about Him, that “adversaries with one consent” had fallen upon Him, that “wretchedness” had grievously touched Him, and that “woes at their blackest” had befallen Him. God Himself He calls upon as a Witness to His “sighs and lamentations,” His “powerlessness, poverty and destitution,” to the “injuries” He sustained, and the “abasement” He suffered. “So grievous hath been My weeping,” He, in one of these prayers, avows, “that I have been prevented from making mention of Thee and singing Thy praises.” “So loud hath been the voice of My lamentation,” He, in another passage, avers, “that every mother mourning for her child would be amazed, and would still her weeping and her grief.” “The wrongs which I suffer,” He, in His Lawḥ-i-Maryam, laments, “have blotted out the wrongs suffered by My First Name (the Báb) from the Tablet of creation.” “O Maryam!” He continues, “From the Land of Ṭá (Ṭihrán), after countless afflictions, We reached ‘Iráq, at the bidding of the Tyrant of Persia, where, after the fetters of Our foes, We were afflicted with the perfidy of Our friends. God knoweth what befell Me thereafter!” And again: “I have borne what no man, be he of the past or of the future, hath borne or will bear.” “Oceans of sadness,” He testifies in the Tablet of Qullu’ṭ-Ṭa‘ám, “have surged over Me, a drop of which no soul could bear to drink. Such is My grief that My soul hath well nigh departed from My body.” “Give ear, O Kamál!” He, in that same Tablet, depicting His plight, exclaims, “to the voice of this lowly, this forsaken ant, that hath hid itself in its hole, and whose desire is to depart from your midst, and vanish from your sight, by reason of that which the hands of men have wrought. God, verily, hath been witness between Me and His servants.” And again: “Woe is Me, woe is Me … All that I have seen from the day on which I first drank the pure milk from the breast of My mother until this moment hath been effaced from My memory, in consequence of that which the hands of the people have committed.” Furthermore, in His Qaṣídiy-i-Varqá’íyyih, an ode revealed during the days of His retirement to the mountains of Kurdistán, in praise of the Maiden personifying the Spirit of God recently descended upon Him, He thus gives vent to the agonies of His sorrow-laden heart: “Noah’s flood is but the measure of the tears I have shed, and Abraham’s fire an ebullition of My soul. Jacob’s grief is but a reflection of My sorrows, and Job’s afflictions a fraction of my calamity.” “Pour out patience upon Me, O My Lord!”—such is His supplication in one of His prayers, “and render Me victorious over the transgressors.” “In these days,” He, describing in the Kitáb-i-Íqán the virulence of the jealousy which, at that time, was beginning to bare its venomous fangs, has written, “such odors of jealousy are diffused, that … from the beginning of the foundation of the world … until the present day, such malice, envy and hate have in no wise appeared, nor will they ever be witnessed in the future.” “For two years or rather less,” He, likewise, in another Tablet, declares, “I shunned all else but God, and closed Mine eyes to all except Him, that haply the fire of hatred may die down and the heat of jealousy abate.”
Mírzá Áqá Ján himself has testified: “That Blessed Beauty evinced such sadness that the limbs of my body trembled.” He has, likewise, related, as reported by Nabíl in his narrative, that, shortly before Bahá’u’lláh’s retirement, he had on one occasion seen Him, between dawn and sunrise, suddenly come out from His house, His night-cap still on His head, showing such signs of perturbation that he was powerless to gaze into His face, and while walking, angrily remark: “These creatures are the same creatures who for three thousand years have worshipped idols, and bowed down before the Golden Calf. Now, too, they are fit for nothing better. What relation can there be between this people and Him Who is the Countenance of Glory? What ties can bind them to the One Who is the supreme embodiment of all that is lovable?” “I stood,” declared Mírzá Áqá Ján, “rooted to the spot, lifeless, dried up as a dead tree, ready to fall under the impact of the stunning power of His words. Finally, He said: ‘Bid them recite: “Is there any Remover of difficulties save God? Say: Praised be God! He is God! All are His servants, and all abide by His bidding!” Tell them to repeat it five hundred times, nay, a thousand times, by day and by night, sleeping and waking, that haply the Countenance of Glory may be unveiled to their eyes, and tiers of light descend upon them.’ He Himself, I was subsequently informed, recited this same verse, His face betraying the utmost sadness.… Several times during those days, He was heard to remark: ‘We have, for a while, tarried amongst this people, and failed to discern the slightest response on their part.’ Oftentimes He alluded to His disappearance from our midst, yet none of us understood His meaning.”
Finally, discerning, as He Himself testifies in the Kitáb-i-Íqán, “the signs of impending events,” He decided that before they happened He would retire. “The one object of Our retirement,” He, in that same Book affirms, “was to avoid becoming a subject of discord among the faithful, a source of disturbance unto Our companions, the means of injury to any soul, or the cause of sorrow to any heart.” “Our withdrawal,” He, moreover, in that same passage emphatically asserts, “contemplated no return, and Our separation hoped for no reunion.”
Suddenly, and without informing any one even among the members of His own family, on the 12th of Rajab 1270 A.H. (April 10, 1854), He departed, accompanied by an attendant, a Muḥammadan named Abu’l-Qásim-i-Hamadání, to whom He gave a sum of money, instructing him to act as a merchant and use it for his own purposes. Shortly after, that servant was attacked by thieves and killed, and Bahá’u’lláh was left entirely alone in His wanderings through the wastes of Kurdistán, a region whose sturdy and warlike people were known for their age-long hostility to the Persians, whom they regarded as seceders from the Faith of Islám, and from whom they differed in their outlook, race and language.
Attired in the garb of a traveler, coarsely clad, taking with Him nothing but his kashkúl (alms-bowl) and a change of clothes, and assuming the name of Darvísh Muḥammad, Bahá’u’lláh retired to the wilderness, and lived for a time on a mountain named Sar-Galú, so far removed from human habitations that only twice a year, at seed sowing and harvest time, it was visited by the peasants of that region. Alone and undisturbed, He passed a considerable part of His retirement on the top of that mountain in a rude structure, made of stone, which served those peasants as a shelter against the extremities of the weather. At times His dwelling-place was a cave to which He refers in His Tablets addressed to the famous Shaykh ‘Abdu’r-Raḥmán and to Maryam, a kinswoman of His. “I roamed the wilderness of resignation” He thus depicts, in the Lawḥ-i-Maryam, the rigors of His austere solitude, “traveling in such wise that in My exile every eye wept sore over Me, and all created things shed tears of blood because of My anguish. The birds of the air were My companions and the beasts of the field My associates.” “From My eyes,” He, referring in the Kitáb-i-Íqán to those days, testifies, “there rained tears of anguish, and in My bleeding heart surged an ocean of agonizing pain. Many a night I had no food for sustenance, and many a day My body found no rest.… Alone I communed with My spirit, oblivious of the world and all that is therein.”
In the odes He revealed, whilst wrapped in His devotions during those days of utter seclusion, and in the prayers and soliloquies which, in verse and prose, both in Arabic and Persian, poured from His sorrow-laden soul, many of which He was wont to chant aloud to Himself, at dawn and during the watches of the night, He lauded the names and attributes of His Creator, extolled the glories and mysteries of His own Revelation, sang the praises of that Maiden that personified the Spirit of God within Him, dwelt on His loneliness and His past and future tribulations, expatiated upon the blindness of His generation, the perfidy of His friends and the perversity of His enemies, affirmed His determination to arise and, if needs be, offer up His life for the vindication of His Cause, stressed those essential pre-requisites which every seeker after Truth must possess, and recalled, in anticipation of the lot that was to be His, the tragedy of the Imám Ḥusayn in Karbilá, the plight of Muḥammad in Mecca, the sufferings of Jesus at the hands of the Jews, the trials of Moses inflicted by Pharaoh and his people and the ordeal of Joseph as He languished in a pit by reason of the treachery of His brothers. These initial and impassioned outpourings of a Soul struggling to unburden itself, in the solitude of a self-imposed exile (many of them, alas lost to posterity) are, with the Tablet of Kullu’ṭ-Ṭa‘ám and the poem entitled Rashḥ-i-‘Amá, revealed in Ṭihrán, the first fruits of His Divine Pen. They are the forerunners of those immortal works—the Kitáb-i-Íqán, the Hidden Words and the Seven Valleys—which in the years preceding His Declaration in Baghdád, were to enrich so vastly the steadily swelling volume of His writings, and which paved the way for a further flowering of His prophetic genius in His epoch-making Proclamation to the world, couched in the form of mighty Epistles to the kings and rulers of mankind, and finally for the last fruition of His Mission in the Laws and Ordinances of His Dispensation formulated during His confinement in the Most Great Prison of ‘Akká.
Bahá’u’lláh was still pursuing His solitary existence on that mountain when a certain Shaykh, a resident of Sulaymáníyyih, who owned a property in that neighborhood, sought Him out, as directed in a dream he had of the Prophet Muḥammad. Shortly after this contact was established, Shaykh Ismá‘íl, the leader of the Khálidíyyih Order, who lived in Sulaymáníyyih, visited Him, and succeeded, after repeated requests, in obtaining His consent to transfer His residence to that town. Meantime His friends in Baghdád had discovered His whereabouts, and had dispatched Shaykh Sulṭán, the father-in-law of Áqáy-i-Kalím, to beg Him to return; and it was now while He was living in Sulaymáníyyih, in a room belonging to the Takyiy-i-Mawláná Khálid (theological seminary) that their messenger arrived. “I found,” this same Shaykh Sulṭán, recounting his experiences to Nabíl, has stated, “all those who lived with Him in that place, from their Master down to the humblest neophyte, so enamoured of, and carried away by their love for Bahá’u’lláh, and so unprepared to contemplate the possibility of His departure that I felt certain that were I to inform them of the purpose of my visit, they would not have hesitated to put an end to my life.”
Not long after Baha’u’llah’s arrival in Kurdistán, Shaykh Sulṭán has related, He was able, through His personal contacts with Shaykh ‘Uthmán, Shaykh ‘Abdu’r-Raḥmán, and Shaykh Ismá‘íl, the honored and undisputed leaders of the Naqshbandíyyih, the Qádiríyyih and the Khálidíyyih Orders respectively, to win their hearts completely and establish His ascendancy over them. The first of these, Shaykh ‘Uthmán, included no less a person than the Sulṭán himself and his entourage among his adherents. The second, in reply to whose query the “Four Valleys” was later revealed, commanded the unwavering allegiance of at least a hundred thousand devout followers, while the third was held in such veneration by his supporters that they regarded him as co-equal with Khálid himself, the founder of the Order.
When Bahá’u’lláh arrived in Sulaymáníyyih none at first, owing to the strict silence and reserve He maintained, suspected Him of being possessed of any learning or wisdom. It was only accidentally, through seeing a specimen of His exquisite penmanship shown to them by one of the students who waited upon Him, that the curiosity of the learned instructors and students of that seminary was aroused, and they were impelled to approach Him and test the degree of His knowledge and the extent of His familiarity with the arts and sciences current amongst them. That seat of learning had been renowned for its vast endowments, its numerous takyihs, and its association with Ṣaláḥi’d-Dín-i-Ayyúbí and his descendants; from it some of the most illustrious exponents of Sunní Islám had gone forth to teach its precepts, and now a delegation, headed by Shaykh Ismá‘íl himself, and consisting of its most eminent doctors and most distinguished students, called upon Bahá’u’lláh, and, finding Him willing to reply to any questions they might wish to address Him, they requested Him to elucidate for them, in the course of several interviews, the abstruse passages contained in the Futúḥát-i-Makkíyyih, the celebrated work of the famous Shaykh Muḥyi’d-Dín-i-‘Arabí. “God is My witness,” was Bahá’u’lláh’s instant reply to the learned delegation, “that I have never seen the book you refer to. I regard, however, through the power of God, … whatever you wish me to do as easy of accomplishment.” Directing one of them to read aloud to Him, every day, a page of that book, He was able to resolve their perplexities in so amazing a fashion that they were lost in admiration. Not contenting Himself with a mere clarification of the obscure passages of the text, He would interpret for them the mind of its author, and expound his doctrine, and unfold his purpose. At times He would even go so far as to question the soundness of certain views propounded in that book, and would Himself vouchsafe a correct presentation of the issues that had been misunderstood, and would support it with proofs and evidences that were wholly convincing to His listeners.
Amazed by the profundity of His insight and the compass of His understanding, they were impelled to seek from Him what they considered to be a conclusive and final evidence of the unique power and knowledge which He now appeared in their eyes to possess. “No one among the mystics, the wise, and the learned,” they claimed, while requesting this further favor from Him, “has hitherto proved himself capable of writing a poem in a rhyme and meter identical with that of the longer of the two odes, entitled Qaṣídiy-i-Tá’íyyih composed by Ibn-i-Fáriḍ. We beg you to write for us a poem in that same meter and rhyme.” This request was complied with, and no less than two thousand verses, in exactly the manner they had specified, were dictated by Him, out of which He selected one hundred and twenty-seven, which He permitted them to keep, deeming the subject matter of the rest premature and unsuitable to the needs of the times. It is these same one hundred and twenty-seven verses that constitute the Qaṣídiy-i-Varqá’íyyih, so familiar to, and widely circulated amongst, His Arabic speaking followers.
Such was their reaction to this marvelous demonstration of the sagacity and genius of Bahá’u’lláh that they unanimously acknowledged every single verse of that poem to be endowed with a force, beauty and power far surpassing anything contained in either the major or minor odes composed by that celebrated poet.
This episode, by far the most outstanding among the events that transpired during the two years of Bahá’u’lláh’s absence from Baghdád, immensely stimulated the interest with which an increasing number of the ‘ulamás, the scholars, the shaykhs, the doctors, the holy men and princes who had congregated in the seminaries of Sulaymáníyyih and Karkúk, were now following His daily activities. Through His numerous discourses and epistles He disclosed new vistas to their eyes, resolved the perplexities that agitated their minds, unfolded the inner meaning of many hitherto obscure passages in the writings of various commentators, poets and theologians, of which they had remained unaware, and reconciled the seemingly contradictory assertions which abounded in these dissertations, poems and treatises. Such was the esteem and respect entertained for Him that some held Him as One of the “Men of the Unseen,” others accounted Him an adept in alchemy and the science of divination, still others designated Him “a pivot of the universe,” whilst a not inconsiderable number among His admirers went so far as to believe that His station was no less than that of a prophet. Kurds, Arabs, and Persians, learned and illiterate, both high and low, young and old, who had come to know Him, regarded Him with equal reverence, and not a few among them with genuine and profound affection, and this despite certain assertions and allusions to His station He had made in public, which, had they fallen from the lips of any other member of His race, would have provoked such fury as to endanger His life. Small wonder that Bahá’u’lláh Himself should have, in the Lawḥ-i-Maryam, pronounced the period of His retirement as “the mightiest testimony” to, and “the most perfect and conclusive evidence” of, the truth of His Revelation. “In a short time,” is ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá’s own testimony, “Kurdistán was magnetized with His love. During this period Bahá’u’lláh lived in poverty. His garments were those of the poor and needy. His food was that of the indigent and lowly. An atmosphere of majesty haloed Him as the sun at midday. Everywhere He was greatly revered and loved.”
While the foundations of Bahá’u’lláh’s future greatness were being laid in a strange land and amidst a strange people, the situation of the Bábí community was rapidly going from bad to worse. Pleased and emboldened by His unexpected and prolonged withdrawal from the scene of His labors, the stirrers of mischief with their deluded associates were busily engaged in extending the range of their nefarious activities. Mírzá Yaḥyá, closeted most of the time in his house, was secretly directing, through his correspondence with those Bábís whom he completely trusted, a campaign designed to utterly discredit Bahá’u’lláh. In his fear of any potential adversary he had dispatched Mírzá Muḥammad-i-Mázindarání, one of his supporters, to Ádhirbáyján for the express purpose of murdering Dayyán, the “repository of the knowledge of God,” whom he surnamed “Father of Iniquities” and stigmatized as “Ṭághút,” and whom the Báb had extolled as the “Third Letter to believe in Him Whom God shall make manifest.” In his folly he had, furthermore, induced Mírzá Áqá Ján to proceed to Núr, and there await a propitious moment when he could make a successful attempt on the life of the sovereign. His shamelessness and effrontery had waxed so great as to lead him to perpetrate himself, and permit Siyyid Muḥammad to repeat after him, an act so odious that Bahá’u’lláh characterized it as “a most grievous betrayal,” inflicting dishonor upon the Báb, and which “overwhelmed all lands with sorrow.” He even, as a further evidence of the enormity of his crimes, ordered that the cousin of the Báb, Mírzá ‘Alí-Akbar, a fervent admirer of Dayyán, be secretly put to death—a command which was carried out in all its iniquity. As to Siyyid Muḥammad, now given free rein by his master, Mírzá Yaḥyá, he had surrounded himself, as Nabíl who was at that time with him in Karbilá categorically asserts, with a band of ruffians, whom he allowed, and even encouraged, to snatch at night the turbans from the heads of wealthy pilgrims who had congregated in Karbilá, to steal their shoes, to rob the shrine of the Imám Ḥusayn of its divans and candles, and seize the drinking cups from the public fountains. The depths of degradation to which these so-called adherents of the Faith of the Báb had sunk could not but evoke in Nabíl the memory of the sublime renunciation shown by the conduct of the companions of Mullá Ḥusayn, who, at the suggestion of their leader, had scornfully cast by the wayside the gold, the silver and turquoise in their possession, or shown by the behavior of Vaḥíd who refused to allow even the least valuable amongst the treasures which his sumptuously furnished house in Yazd contained to be removed ere it was pillaged by the mob, or shown by the decision of Ḥujjat not to permit his companions, who were on the brink of starvation, to lay hands on the property of others, even though it were to save their own lives.
Such was the audacity and effrontery of these demoralized and misguided Bábís that no less than twenty-five persons, according to ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá’s testimony, had the presumption to declare themselves to be the Promised One foretold by the Báb! Such was the decline in their fortunes that they hardly dared show themselves in public. Kurds and Persians vied with each other, when confronting them in the streets, in heaping abuse upon them, and in vilifying openly the Cause which they professed. Little wonder that on His return to Baghdád Bahá’u’lláh should have described the situation then existing in these words: “We found no more than a handful of souls, faint and dispirited, nay utterly lost and dead. The Cause of God had ceased to be on any one’s lips, nor was any heart receptive to its message.” Such was the sadness that overwhelmed Him on His arrival that He refused for some time to leave His house, except for His visits to Káẓimayn and for His occasional meeting with a few of His friends who resided in that town and in Baghdád.
The tragic situation that had developed in the course of His two years’ absence now imperatively demanded His return. “From the Mystic Source,” He Himself explains in the Kitáb-i-Íqán, “there came the summons bidding Us return whence We came. Surrendering Our will to His, We submitted to His injunction.” “By God besides Whom there is none other God!” is His emphatic assertion to Shaykh Sulṭán, as reported by Nabíl in his narrative, “But for My recognition of the fact that the blessed Cause of the Primal Point was on the verge of being completely obliterated, and all the sacred blood poured out in the path of God would have been shed in vain, I would in no wise have consented to return to the people of the Bayán, and would have abandoned them to the worship of the idols their imaginations had fashioned.”
Mírzá Yaḥyá, realizing full well to what a pass his unrestrained leadership of the Faith had brought him, had, moreover, insistently and in writing, besought Him to return. No less urgent were the pleadings of His own kindred and friends, particularly His twelve-year old Son, ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá, Whose grief and loneliness had so consumed His soul that, in a conversation recorded by Nabíl in his narrative, He had avowed that subsequent to the departure of Bahá’u’lláh He had in His boyhood grown old.
Deciding to terminate the period of His retirement Bahá’u’lláh bade farewell to the shaykhs of Sulaymáníyyih, who now numbered among His most ardent and, as their future conduct demonstrated, staunchest admirers. Accompanied by Shaykh Sulṭán, He retraced His steps to Baghdád, on “the banks of the River of Tribulations,” as He Himself termed it, proceeding by slow stages, realizing, as He declared to His fellow-traveler, that these last days of His retirement would be “the only days of peace and tranquillity” left to Him, “days which will never again fall to My lot.”